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Angelina Jolie’s Ties to Gene Patent Debate


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Angelina Jolie reported today she had a double mastectomy last month to avoid cancer.  She based this decision on genetic testing that revealed she carries the BRCA1 gene that signifies a 65 percent lifetime risk of breast cancer.  Less than one percent of the female population actually have the BRCA mutation.

This very same genetic test (and the patents that cover it) are at the center of a heated Supreme Court case on what is patentable subject matter.  The case is currently awaiting a ruling by the Supreme Court.

The cost of the BRCA test ranges from about $300 to $3,000, depending on whether you get the limited test, in which only a few areas of the gene are evaluated, or the full test, in which hundreds of areas are examined on both genes.

In the United States, Myriad Genetics performs all commercial BRCA1 and BRCA2 testing. They report results within a month.   Myriad is the exclusive licensee of the patents subject to the Supreme Court case.

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